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Faithfulness Celebration

2 Cor. 8:1-5 

 

Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, [2] that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. [3] For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord, [4] begging us with much entreaty for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, [5] and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. 
 

For the two weeks before Easter and the two weeks after Easter, we will be celebrating faithfulness at our church. Our focus is upon God's faithfulness to bless those who are faithful to attend, serve and give. During this time, you will listen to sermons from me and from other church members that highlight a different aspect of faithfulness. You'll see several video clips like we just saw and read and listen to testimonies from some of our faithful servants about God's faithfulness. We'll have a movie night, next Sunday night, complete with popcorn and we'll complete the emphasis with a "Faithfulness Fiesta"-a time to enjoy good food and learn about ways you can get involved in the ministries of our church. 

Later in the service, we're going to do a verse by verse study of the passage of scripture I just read, but for now, I want to introduce Sam Varner to you. Today is Sam's last Sunday in our church, so I want to begin by saying goodbye to him and then give him a chance to tell us about how God has blessed him through some difficult days as he remained faithful to God.
 

Some things to notice about the faithfulness of the Macedonian Christians.
 

Vs. 1 "Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia," Ultimately, Paul was not drawing attention to what these people did, but to God's grace and the way it flowed through them to others. That's a decent definition of faithfulness-allowing God's grace to flow through you to others.
 

Faithful people are not always the most talented or the most visible. Many of them minister in the obscurity of holiness. Just doing their thing because they love their Lord. The emphasis is not on them, or what they are doing-the emphasis is on the Lord.
 

Vs. 2 "that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality." We often think of big givers as being wealthy people, not ordinary working stiffs, but that isn't necessarily true. Notice the language Paul used-abundance of joy-deep poverty-wealth of their liberality. In the midst of their deep poverty, these people had abundant joy and great wealth-not in money, but in liberality.
 

Some people have good intentions on being faithful to tithe. They know it is the right thing to do and that it is necessary for the work of the Lord to go forward, but they wait for the time to be right to start. They wait until they have extra money or until they think they can afford it. But these people, gave out of their poverty, not their wealth. 

I'd agree that people with great resources give. Not financial resources, but faith resources. We will only give when we have enough faith in God to take care of us.
 

Vs 3 "For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord," These weren't people who figured out how much they could afford to give, then gave that amount, they gave beyond their ability. 
 

Again, it was based upon the strength of their faith, not the strength of their bank account. They trusted that God could and would meet their needs, even if-especially if they followed his commands and gave their tithes and offerings. 
 

Vs. 4 "begging us with much entreaty for the favor of participation in the support of the saints," We all know the old tired, worn-out cliche of a preacher begging for money to "keep his show on the air" or pay for something else. That wasn't what was going on here-these people were begging to be able to give.
 

How did these people get to be this way? Verse 5 is the key.
 

Vs. 5 "and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God." They gave their money, because they first gave of themselves. Sometimes we get that backward, we expect an otherwise uncommitted person to devote time and money to the Lord's work, when they have never really given themselves to the Lord. 

In a recent article for NEWSWEEK, Jane Bryant Quinn gave seven tips for financial health. They included things like lower your spending, get out of debt and have an emergency fund on hand-basic money management principles. Exactly what I'd expect to read in an article like this. But one thing she wrote jumped off the page when I read it. It was the kind of thing I'd expect a preacher to say, she wrote, "What you do with your money shows where your values lie." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

What would an audit of your checkbook show about what you really value in life? 

As we celebrate faithfulness, our only focus is on giving. We understand Stewardship to be inclusive of that, but broader than that. We believe that when God has got you, not only will you be generous givers, but that you will be faithful to attend and serve in your church. For the next month, we'll celebrate those who are faithful to God, and His faithfulness back to them.

Pray that God will reveal to you if you are being faithful to Him, and that he will give you the courage to become a faithful servant if you are not.
 

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